We show you how to swaddle a baby
The first three months of a newborn baby's life are often referred to as 'the fourth trimester' and there are studies that have shown that babies are soothed by conditions that simulate those in the womb. One example is swaddling, which is wrapping your child snugly in a light cloth, either with the arms inside or left out.
Not sure how to swaddle your baby, or why you might want to use this helpful trick? Here's a quick guide on swaddling and a few swaddling tips and tricks to try.
Why should I swaddle my baby?
There are several benefits to swaddling your baby:
- Swaddling helps to comfort your baby by re-creating the feeling of being inside your tummy, or of being held in your arms. Some babies immediately feel calm when they are swaddled, so this can be a wonderful way to help your baby get to sleep.
- Swaddling also prevent the Moro Reflex. This is also called the startle reflex. As a baby starts to fall asleep, they often suddenly throw their arms out, waking themselves up. This is called the Moro Reflex and is quite natural. However, it can prevent your baby getting to sleep, so swaddling them keeps the arms held closely to the body.
- There is no need for fiddly blankets and sheets in the crib and it can help prevent SIDs by positioning your baby on their back.
- It may help to calm down a baby who has colic.
- It can help prevent your baby from scratching themselves, especially if they have dry skin or eczema.
How to swaddle your baby
If you'd like to try swaddling your baby, here's how to do it safely.
Using a swaddle wrap.
Usually secured with Velcro fasteners, a specially designed swaddle will be quick and easy to use. Some allow you to have your baby’s arms up, others hold the baby’s arms gently to their sides. Follow the instructions that are included with the product and make sure that you fasten it securely but not too tightly. Make sure that your baby can still move her arms and legs (as they did whilst in the womb).
Using a muslin as a swaddle
Use a thin, square shaped muslin (cotton fabric with a light weave) to create a home-made swaddle.
Safety note: check the temperature of the room before adding more blankets to your baby and treat the muslin as a single layer of bedding.
Using a lightweight blanket as a swaddle
If you don’t have a muslin to hand or a pre-made swaddle wrap, you can use a lightweight cotton blanket. This can be a good choice in colder weather or when you are in the room with your baby, so you can always check on them.
How to swaddle using a muslin or blanket
There is an art to swaddling and here is our tried and tested method - although really, there is no right or wrong way to do it.
- Place the fabric on a firm, flat surface in a diamond shape, so that one corner is at the top.
- Fold the top corner down and place baby on top of the blanket with her shoulders in line with the fold
- Bring baby's arms gently to her chest (not by her sides) and fold the left corner over your baby, tucking it under her bottom and side.
- Take the bottom corner up, bring it to your baby's tummy and tuck it securely into the top of the blanket that is across your baby's chest.
- Bring the right corner over your baby and tuck under your baby's bottom on the other side, making sure the end is tucked in at the back.
If your blanket does not have Velcro fastenings or poppers, make sure all fabric is tucked in and nothing is loose.
It's important to swaddle safely and to keep your baby sleeping safely too. Here are some guidelines to help you.
- Always place your baby on her back to sleep
- Never wrap your baby too tightly- make sure she can still move her arms and legs. This is important to ensure correct development of the legs and hips. Studies have found that wrapping your baby too tightly can lead to hip problems
- Don't have any loose blankets, pillows or toys in your baby's crib
- Check the temperature of your baby’s room and add bedding appropriately. Also check what your baby is wearing to calculate the warmth of their clothes and bedding
- Use a thin blanket, muslin or sheet
- When your baby can roll over, it’s time to stop swaddling, as your baby will be unable to roll back with her arms swaddled.
- Your baby should be in the same room as you for the first six months, especially when swaddled.
The benefits of swaddling
The idea of swaddling is that your baby feels safe and secure, yet not restricted. Never place blankets higher than the shoulders and check regularly for blankets near the face.
If your baby starts to 'wriggle free' allow them to do so - most babies will self-wean from the swaddle at about two to three months old.
With thanks to @NurseryDublin